Hebrew University researchers seek to 'inactivate' cancer cells

August 07, 2001

Jerusalem, August 7, 2001 - Controlling cancer by inducing it to remain in a dormant state -- rather than trying to achieve massive killing of cancer cells through conventional chemotherapy -- offers a new and safer approach to battling this disease, say researchers at the Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School.

The advantage of this approach is that it holds out the possibility of treatment that would be much less harmful than regular chemotherapy, which involves large doses of toxic drugs that inevitably destroy normal cells as well as cancer cells.

Eitan Yefenof, the Bertha and Max Densen Professor of General and Tumor Immunology, and his associates at the Lautenberg Center have developed a technique of linking a toxic molecule with an antibody directed against specific cancer cell receptors. By introducing this material into the blood stream it is possible to induce the cancer cell to internalize the entire complex (receptor-antibody-toxin). Once this occurs, the toxin kills or inactivates the cancer cell, thus preventing it from replicating. The overall result is that the cancer - even if it may not be totally destroyed - stops growing and becomes dormant. It is known that people with dormant cancer cells can lead healthy lives for prolonged periods of time.

The Hebrew University investigators have shown that their method is feasible by introducing a prostate cell carcinoma of human origin adapted to grow in a special strain of immunologically deficient mice (mice which lack an immune system and thus cannot reject the human cells).

When treated with the human antibody-toxin complex, the cancer cells introduced into the mice became dormant, and the mice remained healthy for as long as the treatment continued.

Cancer of the prostate is one of the major cancers of man. Thus, the work conducted by the Lautenberg Center researchers, if shown to be effective in human clinical tests, could be of great practical importance in this and other types of cancer.
Photo available via e-mail upon request. For further information: Jerry Barach, Dept. of Media Relations, 02-5882904.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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